The Emerging Landscape of Urban Upcycling: identifying manifestations in a city context

Marco van Hees, Inge Oskam, Nancy Bocken

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Upcycling has been embraced by circular economy enthusiasts, policy-makers and collaborative initiatives across Europe. Early studies describe upcycling as a concept aimed at resource conservation by keeping products, components and materials at their highest potential value across consecutive product lifecycles, with zero-negative or even potential positive impact on the natural environment. Similarly, more recent literature on the circular economy views upcycling as a strategy to slow and close resource cycles through product life-extension approaches, such as reuse, repair, refurbishment, remanufacturing and repurpose. With growing environmental concerns, upcycling has become a re-emerging theme in literature and practice. Cities offer opportunities for an increasing number of upcycling initiatives, but little is known about what manifestations of upcycling occur specifically in urban areas or how these urban upcycling initiatives emerge. For example, so-called Urban Resource Centers seek to tackle challenges in urban solid waste management by encouraging entrepreneurs to create value from local waste streams. Therefore, our objective is to address this literature gap and explore manifestations of upcycling in a city context by means of qualitative research, following a case-study approach based on data collected from research archives and 17 preliminary interviews with entrepreneurs and experts in urban upcycling of furniture and interior design products.

This study contributes to a structured overview of urban upcycling initiatives and the internal and external factors that drive entrepreneurial initiatives and development. Future work will build on this study to make urban upcycling initiatives more widespread and impactful to deliver on their environmental and social goals.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 10 Sept 2023
Event5th Product Lifetimes and the Environment Conference - Espoo, Finland
Duration: 31 May 20232 Jun 2023


Conference5th Product Lifetimes and the Environment Conference
Abbreviated titlePLATE 2023


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